Meet the Mind Behind a New Breed of Affordable High-End Footwear
"I was constantly pushing my superiors to do a few styles that were a little more fashion friendly," the L.A.-based designer explains. "I was met with resistance but I firmly believed that there was a huge void in the footwear market between athletic and dress shoes, so my friend and I decided to be the ones to set out to fill that gap. That's when we started Creative Recreation." The brand launched in 2002 and was one of the first to capitalize on what turned out to be a burgeoning market. Nand worked on the project for 11 years before he moved on.
"I decided it was time for a change," he says. He sold Creative Recreation, traveled, took some time to himself, and then started a new project that brought him to Italy, where he "[fell] in love with the product development process all over again." The trip laid the groundwork for his newest venture, Grand Voyage. Well, that and another realization about the state of the footwear market.
"Designer brands a few years ago were selling great quality shoes for $300 to $400," Nand says. "And then something changed: Designer labels started selling these same shoes for $500 to $1,200. Sure, there will always be 'that guy' who wants to buy over-the-top shoes that cost way more than they should just so everyone knows he can afford it. But let's face it: No one really wants to be 'that guy.'"
Banking on the power of online shopping and using his connections in Italy, Nand launched Grand Voyage this past January as a direct-to-consumer venture—all the better to keep prices reasonable and save customers from becoming "that guy." His fashion-forward designs are made in the same Italian factories as designer brands but sell for about half of what you'd expect at a department store. That means Italian-made suede sneakers, calfskin oxfords, and Chelsea boots with strap details, most of which hover in the $200-$300 range. (A range of bags is coming soon.)
It's a lot of work, even for an industry vet. But Nand doesn't mind: "There is so much involved in the art of designing the perfect shoe: Picking the perfect last, just the right thickness, the finish and touch on a leather, the perfect color combination. I don't just love it; I'm obsessed with it.